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Judge stops sale of Botox substitute

An Arizona company was ordered Monday to stop distributing raw botulism bacteria as a substitute for Botox and to recall any of its 3,081 vials still in circulation.

The potent bacteria marketed by Toxin Research International since 2003 was obtained from the same California supplier whose product is blamed for paralyzing four people injected at an Oakland Park clinic.

Toxin Research employed misleading and deceptive practices that are "likely to result in tragic consequences to the unsuspecting consumer," U.S. District Judge James Cohn said at the end of a daylong hearing. The company and its operators "have exposed the public to a great health risk." The judge granted the government's request for a civil injunction to shut down Toxin Research and its botulism sales.

List Biological Laboratories, a Campbell, Calif., maker of bulk research grade botulism and other toxins, allegedly prepared a low-dose batch of botulism, something equivalent to the injectable cosmetic drug, and sold it to Toxin Research for about $30,000. Toxin Research then allegedly pitched it for sale to 15,000 dermatologists, plastic surgeons and other doctors nationally, government evidence showed at the hearing.

Chad Livdahl, a microbiologist who owns Toxin Research, testified that his sales were intended for research only and not for human use in place of Botox, a federally approved antiwrinkle treatment.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell Koonin said marketing by Livdahl's company compared his unlicensed product to Botox and was an end run around federal regulations.

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